Entries Tagged as 'Windows 7'

Windows 7 Sins

Personally I think this is a little over the top — the choice of an operating system doesn’t necessarily lock an individual into all the technologies that might be offered with it (for instance, you can run Open Office on Windows 7 — you do not have to run Microsoft Office 2010); but that said, this is a valid position and while it might be overstated it is something each and every person should consider.

Windows7Sins.org

Originally posted 2009-12-26 01:00:53.

Video Encoding

A little over a year ago one of my friends with a Mac wanted to get into re-encoding video; I knew about the tools to do it on a PC, but none of the tools really had a OS-X port at that time, so I set out on a quest to find tools that could enable a person who didn’t know much about video encoding to accomplish it.

One of the first tools I stumbled on was HandBrake; it was an Open Source project leveraging off of a number of other Open Source products intended on creating a cross platform suite of tools for video encoding that was reasonably straight forward to use and produced reasonable good results.

Well, the version I tested was a near total failure… but the project showed promise and I keep tabs on it for quite some time.

Over the past year it’s steadily improved.  In fact, I’m probably being a little hard on it, since right after I played with an early version a much improved version was available that did work, and did allow my friend to accomplish what he wanted.

Last month HandBrake released a new version — a much improved version.

With Windows, OS-X, and Linux versions you can try out HandBrake for yourself and see the results.

I did two separate tests (and for some reason I always use the same two DVD titles — Saving Private Ryan, and Lord of the Rings — the reason is that both movies have a wide range of  video type from near still images to sweeping panoramic views to everything in motion (blowing up)…

I had two separate machines (a Q9300 and a Q9400 both with 8GB of DDR2) doing the encodes, and did both normal and high profiles; one test was H.264 into a MPEG4 container with AAC created from the AC3 5.1 track; the other was H.264 into a MKV container with AAC created from the AC3 5.1 track in addition to AC3 5.1 pass-through and Dolby Surround pass-through with [soft] subtitles.

For the high profiles: Lord of the Rings took a little over three hours; Saving Private Ryan took just under two and a half hours — so don’t get in a hurry, in fact, run it over night and don’t bother the computer(s).

The high profile achieved about a 2:1 reduction in size; the normal profile achieved about a 4:1 reduction in size.  The high profile’s video was stunning, the normal profile’s video was acceptable.  The AAC audio was acceptable; the AC3 5.1 was identical to the source, and in perfect sync.

There are a number of advantages to keeping your video in a MPEG4 or MKV container verses a DVD image… it’s much easier to catalog and play, and of course it’s smaller (well, you could keep the MPEG2-TS in a MKV and it would be identically sized, but I see little reason for that).

The downside of RIPping your DVDs is that you lose the navigation stream and the extra material.  Do you care???

HandBrake will read source material in just about any format imaginable (and in almost any container as well)… you can take a look at it’s capabilities and features online.

I’ve got some VCR capture streams in DV video that I’m encoding now — trying a few of the more advanced settings in HandBrake to see how it works (well, that’s not really testing HandBrake, that’s testing the H.264 encoder).  My expectation is that once I get the settings right, it will do a fine job; but with video captures you should never expect the first try to be the best (well, I’m never that lucky).

While HandBrake is very easy to use, your ability to get really good results from it is going to partially depend on how willing you are to learn a little about video re-encoding (which will require a little reading and a little experimentation).   But that said, NO product is going to magically just do the right thing in every case…

Overall I would say that HandBrake is one of the best video encoders you’re going to find, and you cannot beat the price — FREE!

Here’s some additional notes.

For Windows 7 you will want to download the DivX trial and just install the MKV splitter (nothing else is needed) so that Windows 7 can play media in a MKV container using it’s native CODECs.

With Windows Media Play 12 and Media Center I haven’t figured out how to switch audio streams; so make sure you encode with the audio stream you want as a default as the first stream.  With Media Player Classic and Media Player Classic Home Cinema it’s easy to select the audio stream.  Also, Windows Media Player will not render AC3 pass-through streams, it will just pass them through the SPDIF/Toslink to your receiver — so you won’t get any sound if you’re trying to play it on your PC.

Don’t delete any of your source material until you are certain that you are happy with the results; and you might want to backup your source material and keep it for six months or so just to be sure (yeah — I know it’s big; but a DVD will fit on a DVD).

Handbrake

Originally posted 2009-12-17 01:00:07.

Windows 7 on a NetBook

Tonight’s project was upgrading my MSI U120 NetBook from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium.

I put the disc in the external USB DVD drive, booted into setup, prepared the 500GB Seagate hard drive (I upgraded the hard drive to 500GB and the memory to 2GB right after I got the NetBook) for a single partition installation using diskpart (I had Acronis TrueImage Home on the NetBook, but I decided I didn’t want to put that on my new installations), and let it go…

Setup did it’s thing; rebooted, started up and then I ran the updates… and to my surprise every single device was functioning perfectly — including the web cam which Windows Vista needed me to install a driver manually for.

The machine even seems to run a little faster — though honestly I had no complaints with Vista; but I just use this machine to browse the web, email, and GPS, often from a cellular data connection.

The Atom N270 processor is is a little light weight for many tasks, but for what I use my NetBook for I’m quite happy with it; and quite pleased with how easy it was to install Windows 7 on the machine.

I really wish I had a touch screen PC to try out Windows 7 on… but that will have to wait until those come down in price [a lot] more.

One word of advice if you’re in the market for a NetBook — make sure that you can put more memory in it, while you may not have the fastest processor around, more memory and a faster hard drive will definitely give you much more performance.  Also, many of the newer NetBooks use a new generation of Atom processor which actually has fairly beefy performance.  But remember, if you need to use your NetBook for long periods where you don’t have access to power — you’ll have to weigh performance against power consumption for longer battery life.  For me, my NetBook is primary used in my truck or temporary accommodations — so power is always near by.

Originally posted 2009-11-27 01:00:38.

Windows Live Mail

Part of the Microsoft Live Essential software suite available either from Live.com (see link below) or through the Microsoft Update is Live Mail; a simple, fairly versatile email client.

Live Mail allows access to POP3, IMAP4, and Hot Mail / MSN Mail / Live Mail web mail.

Live Mail is a replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Mail (from Vista).

It’s nicely polished, and for the most part works without any major issues (like any software, it has bugs and annoyances).

One thing you may not like is the fact that Live Mail hides the menu bar (you can enable it; but even that seems to be made purposely difficult in the latest version).

The biggest annoyance I have with Live Mail is that it will not import an IAF (that’s an export file) created with Outlook Express or Windows Mail (thank you very much Microsoft for paying such close attention to customer needs).

If you have a Hot Mail / MSN Mail / Live Mail web mail account you will probably want to choose this product as an email client on your computer; if you don’t you may want to look at Thunderbird (part of the Mozilla project, as is Firefox).

The feature I like most about Live Mail (and it’s predecessors) is the ability to drag an email out of Live Mail onto my local file system and put it back (Thunderbird doesn’t have any convenient way to put a message back).  This isn’t a feature that should be a deal breaker for most anyone (if you need to do it, you know how to do it with Thunderbird — it just won’t be quite as easy).

Overall, Live Mail is a descent program, and it’s priced right — FREE.

Windows Live Essentials

NOTE:  GMail content can be access by either POP3 or IMAP4; simply follow the instructions on GMail to enable it and add it to Live Mail or any email client that supports POP3 or IMAP4 over a SSL connection (and allows you to specify the port numbers).

Originally posted 2009-11-24 01:00:40.

Windows 7 – Clean Install

One of the best ways to insure that your computer will have an optimal installation of Windows 7 is to do a clean installation.  Of course, you have to make sure you save off all the information on your machine before you start (the migration wizard can help, but if you have important data you might want to be doubly sure).

With Windows 7 when you install on a clean hard drive, either a brand new one or one that you have deleted all the partitions, Windows 7 will want to create a small (100MB) primary/active/system partition for recovery (WinRE – Windows Recover Environment), but that really isn’t needed since it would put the files for WinRE on the system partition if it didn’t have the ability to create the small partition.

There’s no straightforward way to get the installer not to create the WinRE partition, but there are ways to do it.

Using A Disk Manager (3rd Party)

By far the easiest way is just to partition the drive ahead of time, you can allow the installer to format it.  I recommend something like Acronis Disk Director, but you can use almost any software you want.

Using Windows DiskPart

If you’re a “geek” and understand how to use Microsoft diskpart utility you can hit Shift+F10 at the first setup screen (where you select language, keyboard, and locale) and a command prompt will open.  From there you can use the diskpart utility.

Be warned, if you’re unfamiliar with the diskpart utility you might not want to be too quick to use it… it’s unforgiving.

Commands that will help you with diskpart (in the order you’d use them)

  • list disk
  • select disk 0
  • clean
  • create partition primary
  • select partition 1
  • active
  • format fs=ntfs quick
  • exit

There are options to many of these commands I haven’t specified.  If you’re not a geek and you don’t understand disk geometry (partitions) you probably shouldn’t be doing this.  Read up on diskpart before trying this at home — even if you think you know what you’re doing it’s worth looking over the commands.

Using The Windows 7 Installer

You can trick the installer into getting rid of the WinRE partition; simply let it do what it wants and create the two partition.  Then delete the LARGE partition that you’d normally install Windows into (leaving only the 100MB partition).  Extend the 100MB partition to fill the disk.  Then format the partition and select it for installing Windows.

I’m sure there are other clever ways to accomplish this… but it’s really hard to understand why Microsoft wants to make this difficult.  In point of fact the Mac creates a small EFI Boot partition much the same as Windows 7 wants to… so maybe it’s just Microsoft getting wrapped up in doing things like Apple; maybe there’s a good reason; maybe it’s just stupid.  You decide.

NOTE1:  I would be extremely careful about using a disk partition manager after installation to delete the WinRE partition.

NOTE2:  I generally recommend letting the installer format the drive even if you’ve already prepared it with a disk partition manager.  This insures that the file system defaults are set the way Microsoft expects.  If you don’t know about all the parameters for setting up an NTFS file system and understand their impact on the system, save yourself a headache and let the installer format the partition.

Originally posted 2009-11-09 01:00:43.

Desktop Search

Let me start by saying that Windows Desktop Search is a great addition to Windows; and while it might have taken four major releases to get it right, for the most part it works and it works well.

With Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 Desktop Search is installed and enabled by default; and it works in a federated mode (meaning that you can search from a client against a server via the network).

Desktop Search, however, seems to have some issues with junction points (specifically in the case I’ve seen — directory reparse, or directory links).

The search index service seems to do the right thing and not create duplicates enteries when both the parent of the link and the target are to be indexed (though I don’t know how you would control whether or not the indexer follows links in the case where the target wouldn’t normally be indexed).

The search client, though, does not seem to properly provide results when junction points are involved.

Let me illustrate by example.

Say we have directory tree D1 and directory tree D2 and both of those are set to be indexed.  If we do a search on D1 it produces the expected results.  If we do a search on D2 it produces the expected results.

Now say we create a junction point (link) to D2 from inside D1 called L1.  If we do a search on L1 we do not get the same results as if we’d searched in D2.

My expectation would be that the search was “smart” enough to do the search against D2 (taking the link into consideration) and then present the results with the path altered to reflect the link L1.

I consider this a deficiency; in fact it appears to me to be a major failing since the user of information shouldn’t be responsible for understanding all the underlying technology involved in organizing the information — he should just be able to obtain the results he expects.

It’s likely the client and the search server need some changes in order to accommodate this; and I would say that the indexer also needs a setting that would force it to follow links (though it shouldn’t store the same document information twice).

If this were a third party search solution running on Windows my expectation would be that file system constructs might not be handled properly; but last time I checked the same company wrote the search solution, the operating system, and the file system — again, perhaps more effort should be put into making things work right, rather than making things [needlessly] different.

Originally posted 2010-01-22 01:00:57.

bootrec.exe

Bootrec.exe, available as part of repair from the command line can resolve a number of start up issues on Windows.  It comes in quite handy for replacing the master boot record (MBR) and boot loader (a good way to remove a multi-boot manager like GRUB).

 Be sure you understand what you’re doing it you choose to use it.

 Use the Bootrec.exe tool in the Windows Recovery Environment to troubleshoot and repair startup issues in Windows

Originally posted 2013-11-13 17:00:09.

Windows Symbolic Links

I really hate to use drive letters; that’s the one thing Windows has inherited from DOS that should have been eliminated a very long time ago; or at least made into an “alias” and deprecated as a “fixture”.

NTFS has supported reparse points for a fairly long time; you may well have seen the type “<JUNCTION>” when you did a directory list from the command line.

Reparse points are a fairly generic phrase for a set of features that have grown in NTFS over the years, and they’re effectively the same as *nix link (both hard and soft).

Here are some interesting things you can do with reparse points using the MKLINK tool that ships with Windows 7.

You can create a file reference in a number of directories; that only consumes a directory entry, the file only exists a single time on the disk… if you make it a hard link (the default is a soft link) the file isn’t deleted until all links are deleted.

You can do the same with a directory — make it appear in more than one location.

You can make references across file systems (including drives and the network) just as easily.

For me, I use it to create references to network resources so that they appear on a local machine (I used to use DFS mainly for this and map a single drive letter)…

Anyway, this is another seldomly used feature of Windows that can really help to make it a much more usable system — unfortunately for those it would benefit the most, it’s difficult for them to setup the symbolic links.

Originally posted 2009-12-16 01:00:22.

Windows 7 – Virtualization

So you’ve upgraded to Windows 7 and now your considering the options for running virtual machines…

If you have a PC that’s capable of hardware assisted virtualization (I-VT or AMD-V) and you’re running Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate the decision is fairly easy; use the virtualization technology from Microsoft that provides you with Virtual XP mode (as well as generalized virtualization).

However, if you don’t have a PC capable of hardware virtualization or you didn’t spring for the more expensive version of Windows you have some good (free) choices.

While Microsoft doesn’t officially support Virtual PC 2007 SP1 on Windows 7, since it was designed to run under Vista it will work.  The real downside is that you have fairly old virtualization technology emulating an antiquated hardware.

You could consider buying VMware or Parallels, but why spend money when there’s a better free alternative for personal use…

That would be – VirtualBox (yes, I’ve harped on VirtualBox for the Mac before, and now it’s time to harp on VirtualBox on the PC).

VirtualBox is a project sponsored by Sun Microsystems.  They’ve actually been working on virtualization technology for a very long time, and their virtualization technology is top notch. 

VirtualBox will run on several different operating system, you can even share the virtual machine files between operating systems if you like.  But one of the really nice things about VirtualBox is that it will support machines with or without hardware assisted virtualization and it emulates very modern hardware (which makes the paravirtualization of devices much more efficient).

Unless you have specific requirements that force you to choose other virtualization software, I would recommend you take a good look at VirtualBox.

VirtualBox

Originally posted 2009-11-14 01:00:43.

Microsoft Security Essentials

A few years ago Microsoft® provided a free Beta of it’s Anti-Virus solution; and Beta users were provided with one free license to continue to use the “One Care” branded Anti-Virus.

Now (as of 29 September 2009 – yesterday) Microsoft is once again providing a free Anti-Virus for “genuine” Windows.

Personally I use Avast’s free version; I’d consider using the Microsoft AV on servers, but the free version only support desktop versions of Windows (like Avast).

http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/

Originally posted 2009-09-30 01:00:29.